As we move into our landscapes, whether they were a corn field the previous year or have been growing turf and trees for 50 years, there are often adjustments we need to make to the soils to make them more ideal for ornamental plants. Each particular species has its own requirements for optimum growth and vigor. To the extent that we can meet our plant's needs, the greater our chance of having a wonderful landscape.

The substance we add to "amend" and improve our soils tend to fall into three categories: Chemical - Organic - Inorganic Amendments

Amendment Uses Comments

Compost Great soil amendment for both clay and sandy soil. Improves drainage, holds water and nutrients. May be made in the gardener's backyard. Many communities have large scale compost programs which also sell compost to homeowners.
Leaves Amendment for both clay and sandy soil. Improves drainage, holds water and nutrients. Same as compost except takes much longer to breakdown in the soil especially in clay.
Leaf Mold Same as leaves Partially decomposed (composted) leaves which add more texture to soils that completed compost.
Manures Same as compost but with a little more nutrient content. Fresh, uncomposted manures need to be avoided due to their high salts content and odor. Composted manures are best to use.
Michigan peat Improves both clay and sandy soils if used in large quantities Inexpensive, but large quantities are needed
Redwood compost Best for clay soils, with some improvement of sandy soils. Inexpensive, however, does not hold water or nutrients well.
Sawdust Improves clay soils. Very inexpensive, however, breaks down so rapidly that nitrogen deficiencies may develop despite the addition of nitrogen. Avoid using only walnut sawdust.
Sphagnum peat moss Excellent for clay or sandy soils high water and nutrient capacity. Expensive, but less is required hard to wet when fully dry acidifies soil.
Sewage Treatment Sludge Improves both sandy and clay soils adds some nutrients. Inexpensive may have a high ash content and a strong odor do not use in the vegetable garden. Common commercial product is Milorganite from the Milwaukee, WI sewage treatment plant.

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.


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